Vote for the Worst: TV’s Most Lovably Awful Doctors
Television is awash with characters who represent the absolute ideal in their profession of choice, whether it’s doctor, lawyer, police officer, or meth kingpin. In the case of doctors, over half a century of American TV has given rise to conflicting notions of the perfect doctor. Could the best be Dr. Huxtable? Dr. McDreamy? House?
Well, that’s not the question we seek to answer today. For the better question is: who are the worst doctors ever to fictionally grace the medical profession? In comedy, bad medicine has always been a great way to get a laugh, or even to shock you to the point of questioning your next scheduled check-up.
So who will stand tall as the most sorry excuse for a medical professional TV comedy has ever produced? This week, we attempt to answer that question, with the help of YOU, the Hobbes Lives reader!
Below are listed six TV doctors who simply scream malpractice. Give each one a careful read, consider the arguments for their ineptitude, and then vote below on both your first and your second pick for world’s worst doc. Enjoy a relevant and irreverent link to one of their scenes, why don’t you! If you think of someone that’s not listed who needs to be called out, please write them in!
We begin, as we so often do, in Colorado…
So inept that he doesn’t even warrant a real name, South Park’s Dr. Doctor has all the classic qualities of a bad… medical professional. He forgoes bedside manner when Kenny is in a “persistent vegetative state” to describe him as “Kenny the tomato.” His failure to recognize anatomy leads him to fall for the boys’ dog disguise for Butters, who has a shuriken firmly lodged in his eye at the time. And in perhaps his most memorable flight of ineptitude, Doctor accidentally replaces Kenny’s heart with a baked potato, which proceeds to explode within three seconds upon Kenny’s awakening.
But perhaps Doctor’s most stunning air-headed accomplishment was in making the viewer actually feel bad for Cartman for once, after he awakes from a safe, routine surgery, to be told that the Doctor and his inept staff have accidentally infected him with AIDS.
On losing Kenny in the O.R.: “Dammit!! It! Never! Gets! Any! EASIER! … *whistles happily, exits*
Dr. Fishman, aka Dr. Wordsmith, aka The Literal Doctor, is arguably an effective and technically sound physician, with nary a slip-up in the office or the O.R. Despite this, Fishman has a poor, arguably criminally oblivious grasp of the concept of “bedside manner.” He’s always delivering good news in the worst, most misleading way, or worse, he’s bringing bad news that’s coded in that oddly literal fashion.
Dr. Fishman informed the Bluths that George Sr. had escaped the hospital by saying, “We lost him.” He tells Lindsay, “You look really hot,” before admitting her to the hospital with a 104 fever. And most twisted of all, when Buster loses his left hand to a seal, the doc informs the family that he will be “all right” from now on. Whatever the case, it’s best to let him finish speaking, then file a serious complaint with the hospital staff.
Dr. Fishman (On Tobias): It looks like he’s dead.
Michael: Just to be clear, looks like he’s dead, or he IS dead?
Dr. Fishman: It just looks like he’s dead. He’s got, like, blue paint on him or something. But he’s going to be fine.
It’s worth noting about Doug Murphy that, of all the awful entries in the worst M.D. challenge, he is the only one not bestowed with the title of Doctor. While this is in fact a title you would normally apply to gifted pathologists, it seems unfair to award it to someone who only became a pathologist after failing through three consecutive years of residency, and killing so many patients that Dr. Cox remarks, “I’m starting to think that he might just be a government operative.”
It’s equally worth noting that, despite his proficiency as a coroner, Doug’s normally career-ending clumsiness and absent-mindedness persists into the later seasons. Dead bodies are left unattended, still-living patients are tagged for the morgue, and at least one pair of Miata keys goes mysteriously missing following an autopsy. Suffice it to say, if you want the remains of your loved ones treated with respect and care, maybe try the hospital across town from Sacred Heart.
“I’m not sure if I’m supposed to give this to someone, or if I took this from someone, but I got a bag of blood!”
One thing you can say about Springfield is that, no matter how dim-witted or bungling their professionals might be, everyone maintains their chipper demeanor. Dr. Hibbert is well known for his often inappropriate chuckling, but while Hibbert is a consummate professional, his medical counterpoint Dr. Nick Riviera is a dangerous quack. But does he let the patient complaints and malpractice suits get him down? Not a chance! Nothing sticks to this guy, perhaps not even death itself (see the movie!).
With an enthusiastic “Hi, everybody!”, all manner of medical mayhem breaks loose. Whether it’s performing rudimentary shock procedures on Grampa Simpson with lap wires, or sewing body parts back on wrong, or mistaking the meaning of ‘inflammable,’ Dr. Nick performs his botched duties with gusto!
While performing surgery on Homer: (singing) “The kneebone’s connected to the… something. The something’s connected to the… red thing. The red thing’s connected to my wrist watch… Uh oh.”
What can be said about Dr. Leo Spaceman (pron. spuh-cheh-man) that hasn’t already been perfectly summarized in countles sexual harassment suits? Spaceman is a true rebel when it comes to the medical profession. Rules regarding prescriptions, surgical procedure, and doctor-patient confidentiality are nothing more than pesky guidelines to be sidestepped or ignored. Why, even the rules of natural law are moot points for this dangerous doc, living by the code that “Science is whatever we want it to be.”
Not one to settle for a simple and inexplicable medical degree, Dr. Spaceman is also a lover of women, as expressed through his love of self-styled R&B, and “a more refined class of prostitute.” He commonly hints that he would happily bone his own patients, for medical reasons, if it weren’t for the damn hospital board. Of course, he also recognizes the importance of keeping women in their place, bringing a 60s, or perhaps 16th century mentality to women’s health by advocating witch trial-style methods of settling paternity. I can’t recommend Dr. Spaceman highly enough, especially if you’re in the market for some unlabeled purple pills to go.
Upon delivering Tracy & Angie’s baby:
Tracy: Why’s that baby covered with goop?
Dr. Spaceman: Because everything about this is DISGUSTING!
I actually have a fair bit of sympathy for the Planet Express crew’s resident eccentric, sandal-wearing, alien crustacean physician. While it would seem a logical prerequisite for the job, he has little to no personal knowledge of the human anatomy. This often leads him to mistake human parts or speech for that of aquatic creatures, or when in doubt during surgery, to simply, as he puts it, “cut blindly into goop.” Like his 20th century Groening counterpart Dr. Nick, Zoidy has been known to misplace a body part or two while reattaching.
Perhaps Dr. Zoidberg’s true ineptitude comes not from his constant malpractice, but from the fact that he is so continually unaware that doctors are supposed to be wealthy, stable professionals. Zoidberg lives in the dumpster behind Planet Express, is forced to recycle his own carapace, and envies his coworkers with all their fancy friendships and disposable income and dog food. Instead of boning up on his anatomy, he spends a fair amount of time on amateur comedy, which, if it can be believed, he is even worse at than medicine.
After stitching up Fry:
Zoidberg: There you are, good as new. Except for your dorsal fin. I’m afraid we couldn’t find it after the crash.
Fry: Can I live without it?
Zoidberg: If you call that living…
So there you have it, voters! Now you get to decide, and remember! You get to vote for your first and second favorite bumbling scalpel-wielders below, from among the ones listed above, or feel free to write in your own suggestion! I’ll be back next week with results, along with a new poll!
Mikael Page, codename “Here’s Johnny,” is an NYC-based comedian, writer, and Amazon shopper. Check him out on YouTube, and if you see the UPS guy, tell him he owes Mikael two new electric toothbrush heads.